Gabriela Cruz wanted to go to Israel to better understand how Israelis and Palestinians live together in an unstable area. Professor Mario Garcia found his trip to Israel “transformative and invaluable.” And on college campuses across the country, door hangers, which showcase some of the latest Israeli innovations that are making the world a better place, are making an impact.
Cruz, a University of Florida senior, Garcia, a professor of computer science at Texas A&M, and the door hangers, a giveaway distributed to nearly 100,000 students, are all contributors to Positively Israel, an initiative launched to change the conversation about Israel and show people how Israel makes the world a better place.
“I had a black-and-white state of mind, thinking that life could only be one way or the other for the citizens living in the conflicted regions of Israel,” said Cruz. “But now I’ve seen Israel’s citizens come together, united by their shared desires, hopes and dreams.”
Cruz learned this as one of 25 participants on the Jewish National Fund’s Caravan for Democracy Student Leadership Mission, which takes a multifaith group of students on a trip to Israel to teach them how to become leaders and advocate on behalf of Israel. The mission exposes students to the wide variety of cultural, historical and technological endeavors that Israel has to offer, bringing in key policy players and analysts and providing advocacy training, media skills and program planning, among other tools.
Garcia was chosen as one of 15 professors from across the country to go on JNF’s Faculty Fellowship to Israel (FF2Israel), a dynamic and academically productive mission that encourages conversation and collaboration between participants and Israeli figures in multiple subjects.
Based on his feedback, it worked.
“When so often in the news Israel is portrayed through political discourse, it was invaluable to meet Israelis as they live their everyday lives — as hard-working people who love their country and who want to live like everybody else, with dignity and peace,” he said.
As for the door hangers, the following story best illustrates their effectiveness:
A girl hung one in her dorm room following a Positively Israel event she attended. The next morning, someone had defaced it with a marker. She ignored the message, wiped it down (they’re laminated) and rehung it. The next day, a Palestinian student came to apologize.
“I saw that you cared enough to wipe it clean,” she said, “so I actually read some of the bullet points. I didn’t believe them so I looked them up and discovered they were true. I figure if Israel really does these great things, it can’t be all bad.”
These are among the many Israel Advocacy & Education programs that JNF offers to the community, helping everyone see a stronger, more positive Israel.
To participate in the next Caravan for Democracy Student Leadership Mission, go to jnf.org/caravan or contact the education department at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on FF2Israel, contact Rene Reinhard at email@example.com. For information on JNF’s Positively Israel campaign, visit positivelyisrael.org.
Anne Greenspoon is associate director of Israel advocacy & education at Jewish National Fund, a member of the Baltimore Israel Coalition (baltimoreisraelcoalition.org).